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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

Alaska: The Pribilofs and Utqiagvik (Barrow) in Fall

Vagrants and the Ross’s Gull Migration

Tour Information

Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for Tours to Alaska: The Pribilofs. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they take this tour. Although we do our best to make sure taht what follows here is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document which will be sent to all tour registrants, and whose contents supersedes any information contained here.

ENTERING THE UNITED STATES: Non-United States citizens need a valid passport and may need a tourist visa. Consult your nearest US Embassy or consulate for details.

HEALTH: Alaska presents no major health hazards. Comfort in Alaska is first and foremost a matter of keeping warm and dry. Warm and waterproof clothing and boots, and sturdy, waterproof walking boots are absolutely essential. Please study the clothing recommendations in the printed General Information.

Insects are a nuisance primarily from mid-June to mid-August, so we normally miss the worst influx. An ample supply of repellent and suitable clothing are the best protection.

Mammals: Although large mammals are potentially dangerous, they pose little threat if a few commonsense rules are followed; your leader will discuss these rules briefly during the introductory meeting. Bears do not occur on St Paul, but polar bears are possible near Barrow, so your leader will give tips on commonsense things to do (such as not wandering off alone!).

PACE OF TOUR: Birding in the Bering Sea Islands in fall is generally more strenuous than in spring. While in the spring most of the islands are covered in snow, or very little vegetation making the area that we can cover relatively small, the fall is warmer, with taller vegetation (even lush in the Pribilofs). To dig out vagrant passerines it is necessary to walk through patches of vegetation and along the leeward side of hills. It is possible for those who wish to walk less to remain by the road and come out only if we find something, but the more people that walk the more we find. Walking through the patches of vegetation is fairly difficult, with uneven footing, hidden holes, and loose dirt. Shorebirds may also require some legwork, although many of the ponds will have nice muddy rings that can be scoped comfortably from a distance.  On Saint Paul we have the use of vans, but we may still walk five miles or more over the course of a day (in short stretches). The days will be broken up by meals, with an outing after breakfast, after lunch, and after dinner. Since we use only one lodge, a person can easily opt out of any of the excursions if desired.

Utqiagvik is an altogether different experience in the fall, with snow very possible (even likely). Birding will consist of a few stretches of seawatching, watching specifically for Ross’s Gulls to go by. This extension is not strenuous but will likely be windy and cold.

CLIMATE: Coastal weather is normally cool to cold. Utqiagvik will likely experience freezing temperatures in September. Wind and drizzle or rain can occur frequently, often in rapidly changing combinations. In the Pribilofs, temperatures tend to be a few degrees warmer and occasionally in September folks are walking around in t-shirts and even shorts!

ACCOMMODATIONS: Our Anchorage hotel is a standard, modern hotel.

King Eider Hotel, St Paul, Pribilofs: We will stay in the hotel wing at the airport, a basic but comfortable hallway with 20 rooms and a lounge. Remodels were recently completed and all rooms now have private bathrooms. WIFI is either excellent or absent, depending upon the week.

Utqiagvik: We stay in a well-appointed modern hotel near the airport.

DRESS: Informal throughout.

TRANSPORTATION: At Saint Paul and Utqiagvik we will be traveling by 15 passenger vans or small 21 seat buses. The internal flights are on commercial airlines (Alaska Airlines and Ravn Air).

SMOKING: Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a non-smoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, we ask that you do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, the stricter policy will prevail.

GENERAL INFORMATION AND CONDITIONS OF WINGS TOURS: Please take a moment to read the General Information and Conditions. This section contains important information about how we conduct tours, e.g., what is included in the tour price, refund and cancellation policies, pace of the tours and other information that will help you prepare for the tour.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: A more complete General Information for Spring Alaska: Gambell and Nome will be sent to each registrant on receipt of their booking. Final information with instructions for meeting the group, hotel addresses, etc., will be mailed about three weeks before trip departure. Other news will be communicated as necessary. If you have any questions, please let us know.

Updated: 16 May 2024